Smriti Mandhana celebrates her century. ©Getty Images

A superb century by Smriti Mandhana and unbeaten 81 by Jemimah Rodrigues as India cruised to a nine-wicket victory over The White Ferns in the first of the three ICC Women’s Championship matches at McLean Park, Napier.

Mithali Raj won the toss for India and invited the hosts to bat first.

The White Ferns’ Suzie Bates and Sophie Devine opened the innings and looked at ease. Interestingly the same pair also opened the inning for Adelaide Strikers in the WBBL. It was no surprise that they looked solid in the middle and kept the scoreboard ticking.

After some wayward bowling in the opening spell the Indian spinners tightened the screws but the White Ferns pair raced to 58 in 13 overs. Run-out seemed the only way to break the partnership and in Poonam Yadav’s first over exactly the same happened. Deepti Sharma’s tracer bullet throw from the cover region to the non-striker’s end saw Sophie Devine’s bat just behind the line.

In the next over, Yadav beat Lauren Down in flight and the keeper Taniya Bhatia removed the bails in flash. In the very next over, when Bates on 36 attempted to break the shackles by trying to hit Sharma’s delivery to the leg side but Jhulan Goswami took an excellent catch at mid wicket. Suddenly the White Ferns were languishing at 70/3 from a strong position of 61/0.

Their skipper Amy Satterthwaite and Amelia Kerr slowly steadied the inning by adding 49 in 14 overs. Satterthwaite looked to have found her rhythm as she hit two boundaries in Hemalatha’s over. Kerr, however found it difficult to rotate the strike or add to the total quickly. Yadav lured the skipper by pitching one outside her off stump. She took the bait only to find Rodrigues in the covers as she fumbled but completed the catch. Kerr and Green could add only 13 more to the total. Hemalatha took a fine catch at the long on off Yadav to send back Kerr for 28 (60).

Ekta Bisht quickly removed Green and Kasperek in consecutive overs as the hosts slumped to 149/7 in 39 overs. Bezuidenhout tried to step out to Sharma but lost her footing leaving Bhatia an easy task to removing the bails.

Making most of a lifeline given Rowe added 26 for the ninth wicket with Huddlestone. Batting at 25, Rowe tried to clear the long on boundary off Bisht but Pandey took an easy catch and Huddlestone too was caught at deep mid-on by Kaur as the White Ferns’ inning was bundled out for 192.

Bates (36) was the top scorer for the hosts as Bisht and Yadav took 3 wickets apiece for India.

India having to chase 193 to win started confidently with Jemimah Rodrigues partnering Smriti Mandhana. Runs started to flow immediately as the pair raced to 50 in just 52 deliveries. By end of the 10 over mark, India were 53/0. The eleventh over bowled by Huddleston was costly as Mandhana smashed two boundaries and a six.

Rodrigues patiently rotated the strike as Mandhana raced to her fourteenth half century as the fifteenth over came to an end. In the eighteenth over, Mandhana brought up the century partnership by hitting a glorious pull shot off Devine for a six.

The White Ferns’ ace Tahuhu was brought back in the attack in the twenty first over for a two over spell but she was unable to prevent the runs flow as Mandhana scored two boundaries. Rodrigues patiently continued her support as she too crossed her maiden 50 in 61 deliveries with 6 boundaries.

The skipper Satterthwaite brought herself into the attack but Rodrigues scored two boundaries in her fourth over as the opening pair posted 150 on the board. In the next over they broke a 8 year old record of highest opening stand in Women’s ODIs v New Zealand, beating 163 runs posted by an Aussie pair in 2010

Mandhana raced to 95 from 89 with a six off Kerr. In the thirty second over, she nudged the ball to the deep point off Rowe to her fourth ODI century. She also became the first Indian Women player to score an ODI century in SENA countries.

As India was cruising to what seemingly would be a ten-wicket victory, Mandhana fell to Kerr with just three runs needed. Rowe bowled a wide ball to concede a comprehensive nine-wicket victory to India. Rodrigues remained unbeaten on 81.

Smriti Mandhana was declared Player of the match.